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Birthday Videos Document Autistic Regression

Researchers spot signs of decline between 12 and 24 months

TUESDAY, Aug. 2, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who videotaped their child's early milestones have given researchers a chance to witness how a healthy child can regress to autism.

While studying home videos of 56 children's first and second birthday parties, researchers have found the first objective evidence of autistic regression.

According to University of Washington researchers, the videos confirm what some parents have long claimed -- that some children who are seemingly normal when they're a 1-year-old start to regress and display signs of autism by the time they're 2 years old. Autistic regression accounts for about 25 percent of all autism cases in the United States.

Of the 56 children in the study, there were 15 who were later diagnosed with autism and whose parents reported that their children experienced autistic regression during their first three years of life. There were also 21 children who had symptoms of autism early in life and no regression, and 20 healthy children.

The children's behavior recorded on the videos was analyzed by trained observers who did not know which children had been diagnosed with autism or regression.

The study, published in the Aug. 1 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, did not investigate the causes of autistic regression or the possible role that childhood vaccines may play in the development of autism.

"Once again, this study provides an important lesson that parents are good reporters on what is happening with their children. It underscores the importance of professionals to listen to parents," study author Geraldine Dawson, director of the University of Washington's Autism Center, said in a prepared statement.

"And it certainly suggests that in early screening for autism that we need to screen at 18, 24 and 36 months to find children who develop normally at first, but then experience a regression," Dawson said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about autism.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Aug. 1, 2005
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